Instead of books, teachers asked to rely on discussions

To implement the curriculum in classrooms, two separate teachers’ handbooks have been designed — one for students of classes VI to VIII and the other for classes IX to XII.

From discussions on freedom fighters and the country of children’s dreams to issues such as gender, caste and religious discrimination, and poverty — the Delhi government’s new Deshbhakti curriculum aims to cover substantial ground.

To implement the curriculum in classrooms, two separate teachers’ handbooks have been designed — one for students of classes VI to VIII and the other for classes IX to XII. For both sets of students, the basic chapters are the same — love and respect for the country; who is a deshbhakt; deshbhakti; my country, my pride; why is my country not developed; and the India of my dreams.

The course will not have textbooks and the teacher will act as a facilitator for discussions by introducing each topic with a central question in which children will express their ideas and views. As homework, children will also receive questions on the topic to pose to older people around them, including their families, and will be expected to discuss the topic again with the insights and responses they received.

The teachers’ handbooks come with a set of “dos and don’ts” for conducting these classes — they have been instructed not to criticise children’s answers to which they do not agree and not to present their personal thoughts or opinions as the correct answer; not to stop children from asking questions or cut them off and to listen to them with patience; not to stop discussions on sensitive topics or present their own views and let children form their own thoughts through the discussion.

For instance, an exploration of a critical topic — ‘Mera Bharat mahaan phir bhi viksit kyun nahi’ — for classes IX to XII will begin with teachers explaining the concept of developed, developing, and underdeveloped countries and then posing the question: “In your everyday life, what are the difficulties you face or see people around you facing, which stop India from being a developed country?”

Each child is to share their thoughts with the class and the teacher is to nudge them towards thinking of issues in their neighbourhood and city. As homework, they are to ask three older people, including a family member , the same question and in the next class, they are to form groups and present the responses they received.

Teachers have been told to prompt them to also talk about the following issues if these do not come up in the discussions — unemployment, poverty, inflation, gambling, lack of good schools, colleges, and hospital, superstition, child marriage and labour, dowry, families differentiating between the right of boys and girls, casteism, fights over religion and region, contempt towards one’s native tongue, use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco, pollution, lack of electricity and clean drinking water.

For grades 6 to 8, there are simple topics such as ‘Mera flag, mera saathi’ but also some complex ones, like respect for the country’s people within the larger subject of ‘Respect for the country’. The teacher is to ask the children, “Do you respect all people in the country?” and lead to a more complex question, “Do you respect the country’s men and women equally? Do you respect people from all religions, castes, and economic classes equally?” This will be followed by a discussion on whether they see women and people of all religions being treated with respect, in home and public places.

The 40-minute classes are to be conducted every day for classes 6 to 8 and twice a week for classes 9 to 12. Each class will begin with a 5-minute activity called ‘Deshbhakti Dhyaan’ in which teachers exhort students to run the lines “Main apne desh ko pranaam karta hoon/naman karta hoon. Mai apni Bharat Mata ka aadar karta hoon” through their minds and then will ask the children to take a vow to honour their country and preserve its respect. Then the children are to think of five people who they consider ‘deshbhakt’ and thank them in their minds.

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